The standout on Memories is Hoop’s voice, layered upon itself into absolutely heavenly harmonies.
Jesca Hoop’s music is impossible to pin down precisely because she channels a multitude of influences and styles into her solo work. Memories Are Now is her fourth solo album and contains fairly minimalist indie folk songs, with Hoop’s eccentric touch giving glimpses of rock and even hip-hop. At times—when Hoop is at her most whimsical and sardonic—the songs wouldn’t be out of place alongside anti-folk contemporaries. While certain songs vary wildly, the most consistent aspect of the album is its pared down percussion. Some tracks are positively austere, reduced to Hoop’s vocals and a guitar. The whole thing carries itself with a DIY air, and it’s all the more charming because of it.
The title track is perhaps the most experimental on the album, opening with a plodding bass and Hoop’s flat delivery. But while the bassline is unwavering throughout, the vocals blossom from deadpan into a beautiful layering of Hoop harmonizing with herself. The lyrics themselves are a firm statement of intent: “Clear the way, I’m coming through/ No matter what you say/ I’ve got work to be doing/ If you’re not here to help, go find some other life to ruin.” The resolve and defiance in this opening track is a strong beginning, even though it’s not a great gauge of the sound of the rest of the album.
Memories doesn’t really hit its stride until “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” and “Simon Says,” collectively the two most whimsical and idiosyncratic songs on the album. “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” is based around a playful guitar line, which is complemented by Hoop’s lively vocals and lyrics that are at once vivid and cleverly funny: “You know you wanna but the/ Computer says no/ You know you wanna, wanna/ Take back control…Robots are the new exotic/ Animal kingdom chaotic.” “Simon Says” takes on a much more country style in its unpolished guitar and Hoop’s certified country delivery. That delivery, however, spews lyrics at a clip. But, even in a seemingly straightforward stylistic homage, Hoop incorporates an atmospheric slide guitar breakdown at the end.
But, then again, Hoop is no stranger to experimental music. Elsewhere, “The Lost Sky” is an interesting blend of plucked guitar and minimalist synths, the former almost sounding like a resolute harp. The intermittent synth notes give the song a sense of foreboding, which suits the lost relationship that Hoop laments on the track. “Cut Connection” is the most successful and weird track on Memories. A steady bassline is accented by a high, looping guitar, as Hoop bellows about a “cut connection” between lovers and begs “Be the drummer in my heart.” Fittingly, this is one of the only tracks to feature heavy percussion.
On the latter half of the album, Hoop turns to more traditional folk. “Songs of Old” is the most classically folk offering on the album, with its gentle plucked guitar and somber vocals. Hoop’s serious tone suits the subject well, given that she muses on religion and how one’s rise comes at the cost of another’s demise: “Mama singing the songs of old/ Singing the rock of ages/ Though the gold is marred by red/ Singing the rock of ages/ Melt them down and make new saints/ Singing the rock of ages/ Empires are made this way.” “Pegasi” pairs well with that track, as it harkens back to classic folk rhythms, vocal stylings and the poetic roots of its lyrics.
Memories Are Now presents a very low-key Hoop, but that serves her more meditative songs and somber, minimal offerings. From the plodding opener, Hoop chooses to end the album with “The Coming,” a rumination on religious hypocrisies set to nothing more than a lo-fi guitar. It’s a testament to the strength of Hoop’s lyrics and the power of her delivery that she can hold the listeners attention. But the standout on Memories is Hoop’s voice, layered upon itself into absolutely heavenly harmonies.